Call an indication outfielder may sign

Free-agent outfielder Juan Gonzalez left a message Monday on Royals general manager Allard Baird's phone, which the GM took as a positive sign and indication that the team is close to signing him.

"When the player calls the general manager, it's a good thing," Baird told The Kansas City Star for Tuesday's editions. "He just kind of wanted to let me know where he's at."

Baird told The Star that negotiations with Gonzalez and his agent, Alan Nero, are "a matter of dotting the i's and crossing the t's."

Gonzalez, 34, made $13 million last season as the Texas Rangers' right fielder. According to The Star, he would sign with Kansas City for one year for about $4 million with incentives that could bring the package to about $6 million.

"The Royals have been very diligent, and have shown a great
deal of interest in Juan," Nero told The Associated Press on Monday.

Nero said Monday that he was also talking with two other clubs, which he declined to identify.

"I think Juan would be a perfect fit for the Royals organization," Nero said.

Gonzalez, if healthy, could be the power-hitting outfielder
Kansas City has been searching for since Raul Ibanez left as a free
agent and signed with Seattle. He would probably take over at his
familiar position in right field, meaning Aaron Guiel would replace
Ibanez in left.

"Juan ... has been working out in
Phoenix and can hardly wait for the season to get started," Nero said. "Allard
has been in Phoenix to watch him work out."

Gonzalez hit .294 with 24 homers and 70 RBI for the Rangers last season before tearing a muscle in his right calf. The
injury ended his season after he played in only 82 games, but he is fully healthy now, Nero said.

Gonzalez has 429 homers and 1,387 RBI, and won the AL Most Valuable Player award in 1996 and 1998.

"Juan is working very hard to get ready for this coming
season," Nero said. "And Tony [Pena, Royals manager] has gone out of his way to make it
clear to Juan that he would love to have him there. Juan appreciates that."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.